Monday, November 15, 2010

Two new local TV news apps show a marked difference in approaches: ABC7Chicago the third app from ABC Digital

The third iPad app from ABC Digital has been released, this time (surprise) for a local property: ABC7Chicago. Rarely have local stations enjoyed such treatment (and, yeah, I live in Chicago so this one will be a keeper.)
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ABC7Chicago HD for iPad follows up apps for ABC News and ABC Player, and like the two previous apps, this one is well designed and programmed and native for the iPad. And like the previous two apps, the only real complaints one can have with this app -- especially because it is free to download and use -- is the actual content which is typical local TV news fare ("Coyote runs loose in Loop street") with the occasional real news story sprinkled in (Report: Restaurant show to stay at McCormick").

The app has some very important elements designed in: font adjustments, social network story sharing, easy and clear navigation, along with the same sort of programming wizardry to be found in the previous ABC Digital apps. Imagine what this team could do with decent content (snark, I suppose).
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The three main segments for an app like this would be local news (check), weather (check) and sports (oops). But to access news on da Bears you are redirected to the website. Big mistake but one that might have been forced upon the app by limitations on the use of sports video content.

The again what about all that ESPN content that an ABC affiliate should be able to access? Well, once again, the app redirects you outside the app. The app promotes other apps from ABC, Disney and ESPN which makes sense, but apparently the wall between media divisions is too high to scale. For instance, there is currently an iPhone app for ESPNChicago.com which offers sports video, but there is no iPad version; at the same time this app offers no sports.


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The Capitol Broadcasting Corporation New Media Group currently has 68 universal apps in the iTunes App Store, the latest one being for KXLY.com. You can search for them under the "My Local TV" umbrella.

Unlike the ABCChicago app from ABC Digital, this one is really designed for the iPhone, not the iPad -- this is simply a mobile app converted into a universal version.
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Complete with weather, video and more, the app works fine for mobile phones. But for the iPad the app reveals its weaknesses. First, design: as an iPad app this is a simple RSS reader with layouts designed for a three inch screen. Second, content: there is plenty of content for people on the go, but for those lingering over their media (iPad owners) this reveals the thinness of local media content. For instance, the At the Movies section contains one movie review where full local movie listings would be nice.

Capital Broadcasting should be applauded for their commitment to mobile media. One would hope that in the future they will separate out their apps into mobile and tablet and develop fully native tablet editions.

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